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My Homemade Vegan Kimchi Recipe

Garlicky and spicy, tangy and salty, kimchi is a Korean staple. Great as a side dish or condiment in Korean meals, kimchi also appears as a main recipe ingredient and makes a simple meal with rice and dried laver (seaweed). I’m no expert on the subject but I do love eating kimchi! Click here for the printable recipe.

Vegan kimchi and rice cake stir fry.

Vegan kimchi and rice cake stir fry.

Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut as it’s a fermented vegetable food, but at the same time, it’s completely different. There are hundreds of ways to make kimchi. This particular vegan recipe uses napa cabbage as its main ingredient.

Video Tutorial for Homemade Vegan Kimchi

 
About a year ago, I started getting requests for kimchi recipes. I kept those requests in mind but kimchi is as foreign to my taste as sauerkraut. As a Chinese Canadian growing up eating mostly Cantonese cuisine, I didn’t have much of either. I only started eating Korean food (outside of the rare Korean BBQ) in high school when my friends and I started frequenting a Korean restaurant for lunches one summer. The menu was printed in Korean and and the wait staff didn’t really speak English so we took chances by pointing at photographs on the menu.

3lbs of napa cabbage. The outer leaves were in bad shape so after trimming, this became 2lbs.

3lbs of napa cabbage. The outer leaves were in bad shape so after trimming, this became 2lbs.

Every meal was served with banchan, a set of small dishes that included marinated bean sprouts, various pickles, including a few types of kimchi. I never did identify everything but it was tasty. Recently, Korean food has become really popular, especially on YouTube, and I’ve been getting even more requests for kimchi recipes and other Korean foods. So I figured I’d better start learning about it.

Salted napa cabbge packed tightly.

Salted napa cabbage packed tightly.

After an hour, the cabbage shrinks dramatically.

After an hour, the cabbage shrinks dramatically.

After watching a couple documentaries, countless videos (especially from MommyTang and Maangchi), I made my first batch of napa cabbage kimchi. I took ideas from other recipes and wrote up my version using what I liked (less ginger, more crunchy vegetables), and what I could get easily from my local stores. Of course, I also made some changes to replace the traditional use of fish sauce and/or fermented sea animals to make this recipe vegan. Then it was time to put what I learned into practice. I crossed my fingers hoping that I wouldn’t poison myself with botulism.



 

Pile of cabbage, ready to be stuffed.

Pile of cabbage, ready to be stuffed.

The process itself was simple enough. Salt and rinse the cabbage, cut up vegetables, make a spicy slurry with rice, and mix it all together. The bright red mixture is placed into jars, packed down to eliminate air pockets and left to ferment. Kimchi relies on anaerobic fermentation, meaning the fermentation takes place in the absence of oxygen. The lactobacillus bacteria that is basically on everything on Earth ever breaks down the sugars in the vegetables and produces lactic acid (as well as some acetic acid). This turns the cabbage sour and develops the savory flavour.

Daikon, also known as Chinese White Radish, adds a savory flavour, sweetness and crunch to kimchi.

Daikon, also known as Chinese White Radish, adds a savory flavour, sweetness and crunch to kimchi.

The start of vegan 'fish' sauce: shiitake, wakame and water.

The start of vegan ‘fish’ sauce: shiitake, wakame and water.

I made this batch over a few particularly chilly days so fermentation took longer than my second batch: 4 days. The first couple days, nothing seemed to happen. On the third day, liquid had visibly leeched out of the vegetables. On the forth day, bubbles appeared in the liquid and even more appeared when the kimchi was pressed down. Finally! It shouldn’t take this long on comfortably warm days.

This glutinous rice can be found cheaply at Asian markets.

This glutinous rice flour can be found cheaply at Asian markets.

Since then, I’ve been eating kimchi almost everyday. They say that fermented vegetables are great for your gut as they contain probiotics. I can’t say I’ve noticed any difference, but then my digestion has been pretty smooth since I went vegan almost five years ago.

All the veggies, 'fish' sauce slurry and gochugaru mixed together.

All the veggies, ‘fish’ sauce slurry and gochugaru mixed together.

The recipe that I’m sharing in this post is only from the second batch of kimchi that I’ve ever made so this is no expert recipe. However, it’s so easy that I’m sure anyone can make it too. I’m sure I’ll tweak my own kimchi recipe(s) as time goes by. But since a single batch of kimchi lasts me about a month, it will probably be a while before I share another one. I hope you give homemade kimchi a try if you haven’t already and let me know what you think!

Assembling kimchi is kind of messy. Gloves will save you!

Assembling kimchi is kind of messy. Gloves will save you!

 

Printable recipe for Homemade Vegan Kimchi – US

Vegan Kimchi - US
This vegan kimchi recipe is my take on the traditional napa cabbage kimchi. It's no expert recipe but it's really easy; I think anyone can make kimchi this way! It's adapted mainly from Maangchi's recipe but tailored to what I could easily find in stores and made vegan with my fish sauce substitute.
This recipe uses US measurements; click here for metric amounts.
Write a review
Print
First stage
  1. 2lbs napa cabbage (loose/discolored leaves removed)
  2. 1/2 cup rock salt (you can also use kosher salt)
For vegan 'fish' sauce slurry
  1. 3/4 cup hot water
  2. 1 dried shiitake mushroom
  3. pinch wakame
  4. 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  5. 2 teaspoons salt
  6. 2 teaspoons glutinous rice flour
Other kimchi ingredients
  1. 10oz daikon (about 6" length)
  2. 7oz carrot (one large carrot)
  3. 3.5oz scallions (about 8)
  4. 1.4oz garlic (8 cloves)
  5. 2oz onion (about 1/2 small onion)
  6. 1/4" slice ginger
  7. 1/2 cup gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes/powder)*
Salting the napa cabbage
  1. After trimming the end(s) of your cabbage, cut crosswise into the bottom 2 - 3 inches. Pull apart from the cut to create two halves of cabbage. Make a cut on the bottom of each half and pull apart to create quarters. Remove any discoloured parts and rinse each section.
  2. Layer the salt between each of the leaves. Pack the salted sections into a container and let sit for 2 hours. During this time, the leaves will leech water and create a brine. Turn the sections every 30 minutes so that all the leaves become saturated with the brine.
Starting vegan 'fish' sauce
  1. While the cabbage is sitting, combine the hot water, shiitake mushroom and wakame and set aside to rehydrate.
Prepare the vegetables
  1. Peel and chop the daikon and carrot into matchsticks. You can chop the scallions into lengths as short or long as you like. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the garlic, onion, and ginger in a blender or food processor and process to a puree. Set aside.
Creating 'fish' sauce slurry
  1. Strain the wakame and shiitake and save the water. It will have a strong 'sea' smell. Discard the wakame but mince the shiitake finely and add to the bowl of matchstick vegetables.
  2. To make 'fish' sauce, add soy sauce and salt to the 'sea' water.
  3. To make the slurry, add rice flour to the 'fish' sauce and whisk until no lumps remain. Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Alternatively, bring to a boil on the stove and let cool. The result should be thick and gravy-like.
Assembling the kimchi
  1. Using gloves to protect your hands, add the garlic puree, 'fish' sauce slurry, and gochugaru to the matchstick vegetables and shiitake and mix very well. Everything will turn bright red. You can taste now to gauge the spicy heat, remember that you will be adding in the cabbage later so it will be spicier now than in the finished product.
  2. After sitting for two hours, the cabbage should be shrunken and flexible. Rinse the sections thoroughly to remove excess salt. Squeeze excess water from the cabbage and set on a plate.
  3. For smaller sections of finished kimchi, cut into the stem of each large section and pull apart to create thinner sections. Alternatively, you may choose to leave them intact, cut away the bottom to separate the leaves, or cut across the sections to create bite sized pieces.
  4. Using gloves again, apply the red mixture to each leaf and massage thoroughly. As you do this, stuff the vegetables in between the leaves of each section. Once stuffed, roll up each section and place in a clean container (I prefer glass jars). If you are making bite sized pieces, simply mix in thoroughly and stuff into jars. Press down on each section/handful as you place it in the jar(s) to reduce any air pockets.
  5. Cover the jar(s) and let ferment at room temperature in a dark place. As fermentation occurs, gases will develop so make sure the lid is loose enough to let this escape. Over time, more water will leech from the vegetables making the kimchi look liquidy. Check the kimchi after 24 - 36 hours. When the kimchi is ready there will be lots of liquid in the jars that bubble up when the kimchi is disturbed. The taste will be tangy and savory; if it still tastes fresh it's not ready. You can let the kimchi sit at room temperature a bit longer to develop a more acidic kimchi.
  6. When your kimchi is ready, you can use it right away or store in the fridge. It should keep for a month or more. The cold will slow the fermentation process but not halt it. Over time, the kimchi will get more and more sour (acidic). Since fermentation is still going on in the fridge, open the jars to release gas every week to prevent too much pressure build up.
  7. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. *Vary the amount of gochugaru to control the spicy heat of the kimchi. 1/2 cup results in mild-medium heat.
  2. The prep stage of this recipe takes a bit over 2 hours since the cabbage needs to sit in salt for that amount of time. You can chop the veggies and prepare the vegan fish sauce during this time.
  3. The fermentation stage of this recipe can take anywhere from one to four days, depending on the room temperature.
Adapted from Various sources, including Maangchi and MommyTang on YouTube
Adapted from Various sources, including Maangchi and MommyTang on YouTube
Mary's Test Kitchen http://www.marystestkitchen.com/
Jarring is also a messy affair. Gloves to the rescue once more.

Jarring is also a messy affair. Gloves to the rescue once more.

Printable recipe for Homemade Vegan Kimchi – Metric

Vegan Kimchi - Metric
This vegan kimchi recipe is my take on the traditional napa cabbage kimchi. It's no expert recipe but it's really easy; I think anyone can make kimchi this way! It's adapted mainly from Maangchi's recipe but tailored to what I could easily find in stores and made vegan with my fish sauce substitute.
This recipe uses Metric measurements; click here for US amounts.
Write a review
Print
First stage
  1. 900g napa cabbage (loose/discolored leaves removed)
  2. 120ml rock salt (you can also use kosher salt)
For vegan 'fish' sauce slurry
  1. 180ml water
  2. 1 dried shiitake mushroom
  3. pinch wakame
  4. 15ml light soy sauce
  5. 10ml salt
  6. 10ml glutinous rice flour
Other kimchi ingredients
  1. 300g daikon (about 15cm length)
  2. 200g carrot (1 large carrot)
  3. 100g scallions (about 8)
  4. 40g garlic (8 cloves)
  5. 60g onion (about 1/2 small onion)
  6. 6g ginger (6mm slice)
  7. 120ml gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes/powder)*
Salting the napa cabbage
  1. After trimming the end(s) of your cabbage, cut crosswise into the bottom 2 - 3 inches. Pull apart from the cut to create two halves of cabbage. Make a cut on the bottom of each half and pull apart to create quarters. Remove any discoloured parts and rinse each section.
  2. Layer the salt between each of the leaves. Pack the salted sections into a container and let sit for 2 hours. During this time, the leaves will leech water and create a brine. Turn the sections every 30 minutes so that all the leaves become saturated with the brine.
Starting vegan 'fish' sauce
  1. While the cabbage is sitting, combine the hot water, shiitake mushroom and wakame and set aside to rehydrate.
Prepare the vegetables
  1. Peel and chop the daikon and carrot into matchsticks. You can chop the scallions into lengths as short or long as you like. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the garlic, onion, and ginger in a blender or food processor and process to a puree. Set aside.
Creating 'fish' sauce slurry
  1. Strain the wakame and shiitake and save the water. It will have a strong 'sea' smell. Discard the wakame but mince the shiitake finely and add to the bowl of matchstick vegetables.
  2. To make 'fish' sauce, add soy sauce and salt to the 'sea' water.
  3. To make the slurry, add rice flour to the 'fish' sauce and whisk until no lumps remain. Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Alternatively, bring to a boil on the stove and let cool. The result should be thick and gravy-like.
Assembling the kimchi
  1. Using gloves to protect your hands, add the garlic puree, 'fish' sauce slurry, and gochugaru to the matchstick vegetables and shiitake and mix very well. Everything will turn bright red. You can taste now to gauge the spicy heat, remember that you will be adding in the cabbage later so it will be spicier now than in the finished product.
  2. After sitting for two hours, the cabbage should be shrunken and flexible. Rinse the sections thoroughly to remove excess salt. Squeeze excess water from the cabbage and set on a plate.
  3. For smaller sections of finished kimchi, cut into the stem of each large section and pull apart to create thinner sections. Alternatively, you may choose to leave them intact, cut away the bottom to separate the leaves, or cut across the sections to create bite sized pieces.
  4. Using gloves again, apply the red mixture to each leaf and massage thoroughly. As you do this, stuff the vegetables in between the leaves of each section. Once stuffed, roll up each section and place in a clean container (I prefer glass jars). If you are making bite sized pieces, simply mix in thoroughly and stuff into jars. Press down on each section/handful as you place it in the jar(s) to reduce any air pockets.
  5. Cover the jar(s) and let ferment at room temperature in a dark place. As fermentation occurs, gases will develop so make sure the lid is loose enough to let this escape. Over time, more water will leech from the vegetables making the kimchi look liquidy. Check the kimchi after 24 - 36 hours. When the kimchi is ready there will be lots of liquid in the jars that bubble up when the kimchi is disturbed. The taste will be tangy and savory; if it still tastes fresh it's not ready. You can let the kimchi sit at room temperature a bit longer to develop a more acidic kimchi.
  6. When your kimchi is ready, you can use it right away or store in the fridge. It should keep for a month or more. The cold will slow the fermentation process but not halt it. Over time, the kimchi will get more and more sour (acidic). Since fermentation is still going on in the fridge, open the jars every week to release gas and prevent too much pressure build up.
  7. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. *Vary the amount of gochugaru to control the spicy heat of the kimchi. 120ml results in mild-medium heat.
  2. The prep stage of this recipe takes a bit over 2 hours since the cabbage needs to sit in salt for that amount of time. You can chop the veggies and prepare the vegan fish sauce during this time.
  3. The fermentation stage of this recipe can take anywhere from one to four days, depending on the room temperature.
Adapted from various sources, including Maangchi and MommyTang on YouTube
Adapted from various sources, including Maangchi and MommyTang on YouTube
Mary's Test Kitchen http://www.marystestkitchen.com/
A trick I learned from MommyTang: turn a mason jar lid upside down to cover the jar but let gas escape!

A trick I learned from MommyTang: turn a mason jar lid upside down to cover the jar but let gas escape!

The vegetables shrink even more in the jars as the water leeches out and makes the whole thing more liquidy.

The vegetables shrink even more in the jars as the water leeches out and makes the whole thing more liquidy.

Bubbles form as the kimchi ferments and gets sour.

Bubbles form as the kimchi ferments and gets sour.

Showing 5 comments
  • Kim HerΓΈy
    Reply

    Sooo yummie :o__ _

    • Mary
      Reply

      πŸ˜€

  • Debra
    Reply

    I love kimchi, but vegan version is very expensive in health food stores. I have vegan fish sauce…would that work? If so, how much should I add? Love your site and recipes. Thanks!

  • Amy O
    Reply

    You and Mommy Tang have inspired me to make my own (yours) kimchi! Going to get ingredients as I type.

    I love your blog, youTube, and recipes. *thumbs up* From a vegan noob.

    Amy

  • Nati
    Reply

    We don’t have gochugaru in my country πŸ™ Can I still make kimchi without it? Is there something that could work as a substitute?

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